Men's Under 21s
Men's Under 21s

England legend Sol Campbell speaks about his experience with the U21s this month

Thursday 22 Nov 2018
Sol Campbell has been with the England U21s squad in November for their games with Italy and Denmark

Sol Campbell reflected on an enjoyable ten days working with the England U21s this month, before heralding the “massive changes” since his own playing days.

The former Spurs, Arsenal and Portsmouth defender won 73 caps for the Three Lions at senior level as well as appearances at U21, U18, U16 and U15 level prior to that.

And the 44-year-old admits he was blown away by the level of work which now goes in to making every England group have the best chance of success.

“It’s been an eye opener but I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Campbell, who was with the Young Lions at St. George’s Park for their preparations ahead of the games in Italy and Denmark.

“It’s been great, everyone has been fantastic and Aidy has been fantastic to let me come in and look at all aspects of the U21s.

Campbell has been working closely with Young Lions head coach Aidy Boothroyd both on and off the pitch

“There’s the games and things like that, but there’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes which the FA put a lot of effort and funds into.

“Things like psychology and making sure the players are on it, everything from diet and support staff and things like that, it’s a lot of stuff for U21s.

“It’s changed massively and the actual intel on positions, the support team around the players, it’s a lot more detailed behind the scenes than you think – it’s not just the football game, there’s a lot of stuff and it’s great.”

Campbell, who said some members of the squad might have “done a Google” to find out more on his own career, is an aspiring coach and admits he’s open to any opportunities in the game.

His involvement with Aidy Boothroyd’s group this month came about because a new initiative to help to solve the challenge of under-representation of BAME coaches in the game and to improve the pipeline of future talent.

And with the likes of Iffy Onuora, Paul Nevin, Terry Connor, Kieron Dyer and Titus Bramble all benefiting from similar experiences across the age groups, he believes it’s a step in the right direction.

“It’s hard to call it a scheme, because it’s more a door-opening or an opportunity,” he added.

“You shouldn’t label it a scheme because football should be the winner, so talent or opportunity is what it’s bringing to England and they are addressing it because it’s been a long time.

“Now, they’re welcoming everybody into the fold and there’s also some more players to come back who are retired or are retiring to do their courses and see what’s happening.

Campbell shares a laugh with Bristol City defender Lloyd Kelly in training

“The more [BAME] guys who qualify for their coaching badges at B, A and Pro, the better it is. The main thing is that the pathways are there and that’s key and the FA are addressing that.”

For Campbell though, the biggest enjoyment he got from his trip was getting out on the grass with the players and coaches.

“The best moment for me was when I actually got on the pitch and I was a part of the sessions,” he added.

“That’s when you know you’re in the right place. You know it’s amazing when they win and all of that, but just being on the pitch and contributing and allowing myself to help out. This is what it’s all about.

“There’s been great banter with the lads, I nutmegged one of them in training and they all jumped on me, so it’s been good.

“There’s things you have to do yourself and it’s given me the confidence to know that I’ve got the tools, but I just need to get a situation and a nice gig somewhere.

“I’d love to be able to contribute to England and for me, it’s been an honour to be here.”

Find out more about ‘In Pursuit Of Progress’, our inclusion plan to lead the way across the game in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion.

By FA Staff